It’s cold outside.
That is, outside of my mother’s womb.
I’m a newborn, and everything’s a blur.
It’s a girl!
I’m a girl.
My mother wanted a boy.
She said so. Just now. To the midwife. A fledgling parent’s biting resent undisguised.
I am yet to cast curious yet misted eyes upon the face of the woman who rented me her bump and then evicted me. But why do I wish to repeat this scenario? It didn’t exactly go as planned the first time. Or the second time. Or the third time. Or the fourth time. So why do I think this latest rewound, replayed moment will work out any different?
As you’ve no doubt guessed, this isn’t my first return trip to day one of my existence. I don’t know how I manage it. My nineteen-year-old consciousness hopping back to my yesteryear self should be impossible. But no, it happens, random and erratic, just like me. I wish I could control it, but I wouldn’t know where to begin.
All I know is... I can revisit.
What I don’t know is... why I revisit.
Why my mind keeps bringing me here. To my birth.
Could it be that I’m addicted to the crushing betrayal I feel each and every time? Yes, I do believe I am. They say it’s a form of self-harming, purposely repeating and reliving a specific moment of ice-cold devastation to the point of actually enjoying the sensation.
An instant fix of emotional heroin.
Here’s an example. At twelve years of age, I told Bradley (my very first schoolgirl crush) I fancied him. How did he react? He laughed in my face. Ouch, my heart torn to shreds. Humiliated in front of all within earshot.
Any sensible person would have shuffled into the shadows to lick their wounds. But no, not me, I’m a far cry from the level-headed type. Instead, the very next day, I walked on over to the boy and re-enacted my confession of love, knowing it would lead to the very same soul-crushing outcome, knowing exactly how I’d feel, absolutely mortified, retreading the moment and feeding off the desolation like a hungry calf to an udder.
Indirect self-harm, yes, but equally as painful as blade puncturing skin. I should know. I’ve been there. When I’m older than a newborn.
And then my birth continues to play out, the midwife landing my infant form upon my mother’s bosom, her face as usual a blurry haze of indistinct shades and shapes. The luxury of colour is yet to fully introduce itself to my juvenile perception, at present a mere tinge across this strange new greyscale world. I find myself drawn to a pair of smudgy shadows, flashes of white, my mother’s eyes. She coos and she oohs, all the right noises in all the right places, but I know she doesn’t like me, doesn’t need me, doesn’t want anything to do with me. Very soon, she will sneak out of this maternity ward, not telling a soul, no longer “with child” in more ways than one.
Oh, why did she abandon me? I need to know. Badly.
God, I’m forever seeking answers. Huh, story of my life. A life with scenes repeated.
My name is Dandelion Price.
I’m not like all the other girls.
I’m a disordinary.
‘What do you mean you’re a disordinary?’ asks the guy I’m allowing to chat me up, my chosen on-demand alcohol dispenser for the evening.
‘Polar opposite of ordinary,’ I respond as a nineteen-year-old woman, girl, total fuck-up, draining my glass, placing it upon the bar and nudging it towards my human wallet. ‘Eccentric. Peculiar. Not of the norm.’
‘No, no, I’m talking about your leftfield grammatical choices. A disordinary. Changing the D-word from an adjective into a noun.’
‘Oh, God, you’re an English teacher.’
He laughs. ‘I can assure you I’m not.’
‘It’s quite simple,’ I begin to explain. ‘I’m a disordinary in the same way a man who likes men is a homosexual, the same way a woman who likes women is a lesbian.’
‘Ah, so you identify as a disordinary.’
‘I do indeed.’
‘So... does this mean you call a normal person an ordinary?’
‘Actually, I call a normal person a vanilla.’
‘Because normal is bland and mundane and boring and... oh, God, do you realise there are people out there who actually like being bland and mundane and boring?’
Again, he laughs. He’s enjoying my company. I’m glad. Most of all because I’d like several more complimentary drinks. Which I guess is unfair of me. He seems like a really nice guy. Somebody who could do wonders for my low self-esteem. And my mental health.
Or... he could end up true-colouring himself as a complete wanker.
Whatever the outcome, I’d like to get to know him better. There’s deffo chemistry bubbling under the surface, waiting for us both to realise. But it’s him getting to know me better that’s the problem. I don’t think he’s ready for what might spill out of my mouth if I open up to him.
Like, properly open up.
It’s been three weeks since my last revisit to my birth. Three looooong weeks. Which is kind of weird. All previous occasions of my consciousness performing its hitch-hiking trick came mere days apart. Regular reminders of my mother’s betrayal. Regular kicks to the vagina. Regular shots in the vein, my addiction quenched. Since then, nothing. Waiting so long for the next time feels like a lifetime. Will there be a new episode? I bloody hope so. But what if the show has been cancelled? What if it was a temporary glitch in the universe? What if the error has now been rectified?
Please. I demand another trip. I am hungry, I need to be fed.
Oh, God, I guess I’m going through my “cold turkey” phase.
I need a distraction. This guy is my distraction. I can’t let him walk away.
I must keep him interested.
‘Do you see me as a vanilla?’ my drinking partner then asks, nudging me free of my troubled internal monologue.
‘Yes,’ I reply, firm nod included. ‘But slightly upgraded.’
‘You’re a VILF.’ And off his look of question, I add, ‘A vanilla I’d like to fuck.’
Oh, yes, it’s true. I would indeed love to bed the guy. But not only for distraction purposes. There’s something about him. About us. A connection. I’m sure we’re both feeling it. As such, I yearn to keep him close, but at the same time keep my distance. I can’t have him knowing all my secrets. At least not yet anyway.
As predicted, the man likes the sound of my declaration of lust. ‘Result,’ he cheeps, rubbing his hands together in cliché glee. ‘But we can’t go back to my place.’
What follows is a very enjoyable tongue-in-cheek quick-fire exchange.
ME: ‘Why can’t we go back to your place?’
HIM: ‘I don’t live alone.’
HIM: ‘Not even warm.’
HIM: ‘Never been married.’
HIM: ‘Oi! Strictly heterosexual.’
ME: ‘Still sponging off Mummy and Daddy?’
HIM: ‘Flew the nest two years ago.’
ME: ‘Who then?’
HIM: ‘Nosey flatmate.’
ME: ‘Male or female?’
ME: ‘Have you shagged her?’
HIM: ‘You ask too many questions.’
ME: ‘So you have shagged her.’
HIM: ‘It’s complicated.’
ME: ‘So you have shagged her.’
HIM: ‘It should never have happened.’
ME: ‘So you have shagged her.’
HIM: ‘Only the once. We were both drunk.’
ME: ‘How drunk?’
ME: ‘Why were you both plastered?’
HIM: ‘What’s with the endless quizzing?’
ME: ‘If I’m accommodating your penis tonight, I demand backstory.’
ME: ‘Would you buy a second-hand car without first checking the service history?’
HIM: ‘Fair point.’
ME: ‘So why were you both plastered?’
HIM: ‘She needed a shoulder to cry on. And an emergency drinking partner.’
HIM: ‘Cheating boyfriend. The poor girl was devastated.’
ME: ‘So you thought a session of between-the-sheets action might help alleviate her pain?’
HIM: ‘I didn’t plan it. It just...’
HIM: ‘Yes. But never again.’
ME: ‘Why not? Bad experience?’
HIM: ‘She embraced celibacy.’
ME: ‘Celibacy? Straight after having sex with you?’
HIM: ‘Not straight after, no. A few days later.’
ME: ‘Do you think your bedroom performance was the deciding factor in wishing to practically turn into a nun?’
HIM: ‘No way.’
ME: ‘Are you sure about that? On my side of the fence, that’s one hell of a coincidence.’
HIM: ‘It was not the deciding factor.’
ME: ‘So you consider yourself good in bed?’
HIM: ‘In my Complaints Department, my helpline is silent.’
I laugh. But not for the purpose of throwing validation confetti in his direction. The man is deffo not fishing for likes. He doesn’t look the needy type. No, no, seriously, my mirth is genuine. His sense of humour tickles me.
Once my mirth is spent, he asks, ‘Do you have somewhere we can go?’
‘Yes. But not yet. I’m not officially drunk enough to have sex with a complete stranger.’ And I nudge my glass formerly known as a double vodka and coke even closer to him.
This time, my VILF takes the hint and orders our next round of drinks.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, WTF-ly, I am forty-six.
I sit alone in somebody’s lounge.
How did I get here?
Thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure how I know my precise age at this particular moment in time. I just... do. God, this is weird.
A moment ago, my VILF was ordering my nineteen-year-old self a fresh drink. Huh, looks as though I won’t be sampling my latest gift of alcohol after all. Oh, and then it occurs to me. I know I can revisit my past. Could it be possible that I can also travel to my future?
Curious, I stand up and amble over to the window. Casting my eyes upon the semi-aerial view of a concrete metropolis, I find that I currently reside in a high-rise block of flats, the fifteenth floor at least. Is this my property? The forty-six-year-old version of me can’t remember.
Is this how it works when I do the fast-forwarding thing, my nineteen-year-old consciousness squatting in my older self’s brain, suppressing all knowledge of my current existence? I don’t know. And why would I? This is my maiden voyage in this direction.
Oh, look, in my hand, I hold an unopened envelope. Addressed to Miss Dandelion Price.
Miss? Oh. I thought by now I’d be married. Then again, who’d want to shack up with me on a full-time basis? I doubt anybody could hack my moods, my swings, my episodes.
I tear open the envelope, revealing a letter from...
Refusing to read the ongoing text, I refold the letter, stuffing it back inside its resident envelope. I don’t like it, I can’t handle it, this is freaking me out. And so, no longer wishing to occupy my forty-six-year-old body, I beg my consciousness to return to the past, to that pub, to the guy I like, to my next free vodka and coke, oh, God, I keep trying and trying and trying, but nothing happens. I’m bloody stuck here until my mind decides otherwise.
Right now, I really could do with a drink. A strong one.
For reasons unknown to myself, I am strangely drawn to the chest of drawers. I squat low and yank open the bottom drawer. No idea why. My older version’s body seems to be set on auto-pilot. Allowing my/her free hand to do its own thing and rifle through the legal requirement of accumulated life junk, out comes –
– a half-full, half-empty bottle of vodka.
Hmm, it’s a strange place to store alcohol, but I must respect my middle-aged counterpart’s foibles. Oh, and then I realise. Nineteen-year-old me didn’t know that bottle was there. But forty-six-year-old me did. Which means my younger self’s consciousness hasn’t totally taken over the host body. Instead, it’s sharing brain-space with my older self’s matured consciousness. Otherwise, how do I explain unearthing the vodka?
Fuck me, this gig is complicated.
Now I really, really need a drink.
I stand up, unscrewing the lid, awash with the sudden urge to take it neat, straight from the bottle. Head back, hefty gulp, ooh, yes, it surprisingly hits the spot. My late-teen version would never consume vodka in its naked form, but it’s clearly part of my older self’s routine.
I fail to clock the teenage girl in school uniform entering the room until she shrieks, ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’
‘Oh, sorry,’ I bumble, reuniting lid with bottle. And yes, I can see she’s a minor, but I still feel the need to ask, ‘Is this your vodka?’
‘You know it isn’t.’ The black look she offers across reminds me of how I’ve scowled at pretty much everybody my entire life. ‘How many have you had?’
‘Literally one glug.’
This little bitch (who I assume is aged around the fifteen mark) is beginning to get on my nerves. And so, to highlight my burning irritation, I bark, ‘What’s it to you?’
To which she counter-barks, ‘You’re a recovering alcoholic.’
Bloody hell, have I really sunk so low in my autumn years? As a nineteen-year-old, drinking is something I enjoy at the weekend. To excess, sure. But it’s not a problem. It never has been. Twenty-seven years later, however, it seems to be a major crisis.
‘Where did you get it?’ the teenager asks. ‘All the shops around here refuse to serve you.’
Again, bloody hell. I have a “bad girl” reputation. My younger self would love this breaking news. But I can’t help feeling that my older self no longer shares the same sentiment.
‘I found it,’ I declare. ‘In the bottom drawer.’
The schoolgirl groans. Loudly. ‘So you’re hiding booze around the flat again. Classy.’
Ouch. This means I’m not only an alcoholic. I’m a cliché alcoholic.
‘Hold on, why are you so bloody concerned?’ I demand to learn. ‘And who the hell are you anyway?’
‘Jesus, Mum, you must be totally wrecked.’
Mum? OMG. I have a daughter.
A stroppy bitch, yes, and a gobby cow, both traits no doubt inherited from the genetic blueprint of Dandelion Price. Oh, yes, she deffo tumbled head-first through my piss-flaps.
‘What’s that in your other hand?’ comes my flesh and blood’s latest query.
I glance at the war-torn envelope still in my possession. ‘Oh, nothing much,’ I lie. ‘Junk mail.’ Into the top drawer, it goes. Out of sight, out of mind. Until such a time I can bring myself to properly read it.
Oh, and then I’m back where I started.
No, not the maternity ward. I mean the pub, standing at the bar with my on-demand alcohol dispenser. He’s paying for that fresh round of drinks.
Everything is the same. It’s as if I never left.
Hmm, I then wonder what happens to my nineteen-year-old body when my consciousness is elsewhere. Do I remain motionless, unspeaking, unthinking, frozen in time? Actually, no, I don’t think that’s the case. Noah doesn’t look as though he’s about to mention any happenings of severe oddness. It seems, in his eyes, I haven’t journeyed anywhere. So I guess that means my travel-happy consciousness always returns to my present-day self the very moment it left, leaving no gap in the timeline, the continuity seamless.
Looks like I won’t be reading that letter any time soon. Good. It can stay hidden in the top drawer. I don’t want to find out what happens next. I know too much already.